Living With Limitations: Proverbs
Erythronium dens canis, Mertensia virginia
When I hear the word proverb I get visions of a big black leather-bound book and someone about to give me a pithy quote followed by a lecture. The dictionary says a proverb is “a short saying in general use, stating a general truth or piece of advice”. Not necessarily advice from the Bible. So, since a precept can come from any source, I made up one for myself, and I quote me, “Any man who hath a garden and dark chocolate has contentment.”
Trout-Lily, or Erythronium americana with Jacob’s Ladder
While visiting a gardening buddy he took me on a tour of his home county. We saw historical monuments, cemeteries, homes of historical significance and parks, along with other local sights connected to his childhood. He had many memories to share as he drove us from point to point. The town of Vincinnes, IN loomed large in his tour and we made stops at several places of interest. One stop at a childhood memory of his was Charlie’s Candies. Just driving there, hearing the story of his connection, was enough to invoke visions of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory movies.
We stopped, entered, and stepped into an aroma of warm chocolate and hints of nuts and fruits, probably as close as one can get to the scent of heaven without passing away. My feet were six inches off the floor, my wallet floated up from my back pocket and nestled into my hand as my nose pressed to the glass cases. I feel sure they cleaned the glass after I left. I went from case to case, pointing and requesting, watching a box fill to overflowing. My expectations and imagination were more than met when I bit into the first chocolate confection.
There was one chocolate that was oversize compared to the rest, not very pretty in appearance that I purchased as a last minute impulse. It was marshmallow center, dark chocolate and nuts outside and no skimping on any of the ingredients. Each piece was the equivalent of three of the others. Tea time will never be the same since that stop at Charlie’s Candies. The chocolate was decadent; so fulfilling both behind my bellybutton and my senses all I could do was sigh in contentment.
Primula vulgaris, Red Form
My garden and I have been companions for well over thirty years now. It is where I taught myself to garden, where we both grew together. Each season, each year, we shared all the anticipation, excitement, disappointments, satisfaction and our quiet times together. While the word happiness gets tossed around quite a bit, I would say there was, indeed, happiness being in my garden, but the best part was all the contentment experienced. The feeling of being content was deeper and lasted much longer.
That word, contentment, keeps popping up in my life of late. Just imagine coming in from a day out in the garden in spring weather with its cool morning, sunny warm day, having completed weeding that pesky area. Getting fresh mulch down and walking the paths enjoying all the renewal coming into being before your very eyes. Makes a gardener almost strut like a mating Prairie Grouse in ritual with his puffed out chest. When all is said and done, I am content with my efforts to create a garden. Is it perfect? No. But it has exceeded my expectations by far; more than I could have imagined. Now when I rest from my work in the garden I can sit down to afternoon tea, pick up a dark chocolate piece of candy and let it melt on my tongue.
Combine the two contentments and what more could a human being ask for? “Any man who hath a garden and dark chocolate has contentment”.
Living With Limitations: Gratitude
Pink form of Trillium grandiflorum will be opening soon.
I was kneeling on my garden pad removing crowding weeds from a stand of Trillium, both admiring and thankful I managed to be successful with this species. Taking a break from weeding, I stood up and began pacing the path for a bit. So many new noses were pushing up through all the leaf mulch, some already in bud or bloom. What a feeling to have, to be among, a part of, all that renewal. We both weathered it through another winter.
Hepatica peeking from under leaf mulch
If another gardener asked me if I were appreciative of my garden, I would have quickly replied, “Well, of course.” Like, well duh, what a foolish question. But it would seem, on occasion, I have to be reminded in order to consciously be appreciative; to find gratitude for my garden. It is not that it is not there, just perhaps I tend to take it for granted. We all know what happens in a relationship when we take someone for granted. Both sides loose value, the relationship itself loses value, and we do not realize just how valuable our gift until it is going away or lost to us.
While strolling the upper paths of my hillside garden, I began to realize, again, just how much I enjoy my garden, and my many years of a satisfying relationship. Those thoughts led to other relationships in my life. My declining health has placed a new pair of glasses on these eyes; a new, perhaps clearer, way to see what is around me, what has been there all along for my benefit. My illness has changed my every relationship.
Phlox divaricata and unfurling fernsferns
Strange how because life has changed; it affects my every relationship. My friends who liked me the way I was, now need to change how they relate to me and our relationship. One small but very important aspect of the changes is my having to give up driving my auto except for very short trips. In steps my gardening buddy who will take charge and get me where I need to be in the gardening world. He is also pretty darn attentive to my health needs. Gardeners come visit me and give me a hand with the physical needs of my garden. I could go on and on about the generosity of my gardening friends.
My wife is my primary caregiver, the one who had to adapt and change the most in my relationships, and it had to be overnight. Not only does she have her own life and all its commitments such as caring for and visiting her mother in a nursing home, she also has a full time job. All the responsibilities of a two person deal suddenly becomes a one person operation; hers. Not only do I have doctors’ appointments, she does as well, for every trip has her accompanying me. The concern for my health, the responsibilities I can actually see on her face.
Speaking of doctors, the medical community, I have a pulmonary specialist, Cardiologist, Family doctor, Dermatologist, Neurologist, Internal specialist, and more, that seemingly changes each month. Then there are all their staffs with assorted specialist for tests. Hospitals, rehab centers, home health care, this entire army of medical assistance keeping this old failing body operational for a while longer. It is as if I were the head of a flow, a small boat on a river of assistance.
Omphalodes verna with Polygonatum tips
Standing there, weeder in hand, I feel a deep, moving, sense of gratitude for all who give so freely. Now that these feelings are up front in my conscious mind, it is time to express my gratitude. To say thank you for all that you do for my wellbeing. That would include you who read this blog, giving me the opportunity to share.
There is always a glass of wine or hot cup of tea waiting to be shared when you come visit.
Living With Limitations:
Virginia Bluebells, a favorite early blooming native perennial
Native Dicentra cucullaria, Dutchman’s Breeches
My parents were born at the beginning of 1900’s, so they were big believers in spring tonics. There was the old standby my father preached, a mix of molasses and sulfa, along with his personal patent medicine in a brown bottle (mostly alcohol). We also gathered newly emerging greens such as dandelion and early polk sprouts. Then, there was the dreaded cod liver oil, the mere thought of which, still brings shudders of revulsion decades later. Just the thought brings back the lingering odor in my nostrils. Thankfully those are now bygone days.
Speaking of bygone days; did you know that Napoleon Bonaparte needed a safe method to feed his troops when on the move and offered a reward for someone to come up with an answer? About 1800, canning of heated food in sealed glass jars was invented, and that method some of us still use today when canning jelly. Shortly after, an Englishman invented sealing heated foods in non-breakable tin cans. Thanks to those two gentlemen we no longer need spring tonics for we get our vitamins from glass and tin canned goods, along with frozen produce, during the winter now. If you don’t eat your veggies, there is always a bottle of multivitamins available.
I suppose it is my age; lots of “not-so good old days” tend to creep into conversations. “Remember whens” are very much a part of paragraphs leading up to today’s topic. Those were the spring tonics of my childhood, of which I am most thankful, to see remain in the distant past. Being a gardener I have my own spring tonic that puts a spring in my step. My gardening is again awakening and there has been just enough weather suitable for humans occurring on my side of the Hoosier hills allowing me to be in my garden.
If I could use only one word to describe how I feel after pulling weeds, clearing out some winter debris, it would have to be invigorated. I remember only yesterday it was a sunny day, temps in the low 60’s and no wind. I was on my kneeling pad trimming dead stems and foliage from my Epimediums before they bloom, the sun on my back. I felt like a turtle on a sunny log, baking wellness into my being. I could actually smell the heat on my jacket; the scent and warmth of clothing just as it comes from the dryer. My body craved activity, needed activity, after the long weary months of winter. As I got down and up from the kneeling pad, moving from one drift of Epimedium to the next, my whole body felt, well, invigorated.
Would I have aches and pains this evening? Sure, but that is another time, a willing payment for my transaction with my garden.
As my body responded so did my mind. I could sense the gloom of winter slipping away into the soil. There would be no feeling down today, no concerns with my health. Today, it was only my garden and I; pausing while kneeling, using pursed lip breathing, concentrating on the in and out of breath as warmth caressed the back of my neck, my mind and body opening the gate to another world. A world of tranquility.
You know the old saying about how the whole can be greater than the sum of its parts. Nothing new under the sun there, for Aristotle the philosopher gave us that nugget of knowledge. With a body content within itself, a mind wrapped in tranquility, almost mindful meditative breathing, there was a transcending into a sense of peace, a melding if you will, of my soul and the garden. For that moment, however long it lasted, I was more than myself, I was a part of; we were a flow of wellbeing.
If there was some way I could can that transcendence I would gladly pay the postage to share a bottle with you. But, if you have a garden, you already have all the spring tonic you need.
I hope to have the garden ready for visitors this year. Come visit me.
Living With Limitations: Fatherly Advice
Trout Lily in bud
A Father’s Words
In my father’s younger years he was a hunter of small game. As he aged fishing became his passion. He loved to spend his days on local creek banks, local river and, on occasion, trips to large lakes with companions. He had a ritual when heading out for a day of fishing; two rods were carried, a tackle box filled mostly with canned sausages, mustard, crackers and warm beer. However, he only left the house on days of good weather. I will quote the logic of his words to me; “If you have to be miserable to have fun, I ain’t goin’.”
His words of wisdom have stuck with me over the years. The last couple of weeks have had days of clear skies with sunshine and reasonable temperatures of mid-40’s to mid-50’s. Sounded good until I stepped out the door and was met by a wind that cut like a cold knife. As much as I love being in my garden working, it simply was not going to happen on those days. After all, “If you have to be miserable to have fun, I ain’t goin”. So, No crawling around weeding for me today. I could, however go for a walk with a heaver coat and hat.
First Day of Spring
With this week being bringing the first day of spring, there is no way I can not be in my garden at least long enough to see its new beginnings. If there are new plants poking their noses up the least I can do is be there to welcome them into a new spring. In observing past springs I know that weather uncomfortable to me is just fine with them.
Mostly it is ephemerals pushing up through the leaf mulch. When I see Dwarf Larkspur (Delphinium tricorne) foliage opening I know there will be blooms of lavender-blue, an occasional white-blooming, above cut leaves reaching a bit over a foot in height. For now they are mostly just promise, but I am a believer. Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica) with rounded leaves of purple-green-blue are in a race and will be showing sprays of blue trumpets along with the dwarf larkspur. Trout-Lilies (Erythronium) are up and I see an occasional bud forming. Spring Beauties (Claytonia virginica) now have full size arching blades of beet-bronze reaching all of two inches. Dwarf Snow Trillium (Trillium nivale) is up and in full bloom with its pristine three-petal flowers over blue-green leaves. Other trilliums are beginning to emerge, with Trillium lancifolium up above the groundcover of Partridge Berry (Mitchella repens). Trillium decumbens sits on the mulch with a bud resting at the center of the three leaves.
Jacob’s Ladder (Polemonium reptans, and not an ephemeral) is, indeed, a ladder to heavenly blue blooms very shortly now. A Hepatica with white blooms has regained is position in the hollow long where Walking Ferns thrive. And, saving best to last, Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) opens it first bloom on the first day of spring.
On the side of the garden getting the most light European Wood Anemone (Anemone nemorosa) is popping up in drifts. Soon there will be carpets of color holding the space until later perennials emerge. Lung Wort (Pulmonaria) now has a few bright blue mini-trumpets heralding the arrival of spring. Two species of Primula have bright new foliage crowned by a multitude of plump buds. Several species of Corydalis have foliage with buds up and ready to open. In addition to the ‘normal’ Peonies, Japanese woodland peony (Paeonia obvata) is unfurling its beautiful foliage of green, bronze, almost-red and beet.
The calendar says spring has arrived this week and my garden has confirmed the event. Perhaps the way spring begins around here, performing like a roller coaster running in and out of tunnels, may not be such a bad thing. Makes me put down the weeder and the rake, spade and notebook of projects and just walk the garden, taking time to welcome the arrival of each plant that faithfully returned to entertain and keep me company.
Dear Old Dad
It would seem Dear Old Dad was wise on more than one level. Having a sense of optimal timing for the most pleasure; for right moment, right activity, lets me enjoy my garden in spite of, perhaps because of, that chilly spring weather.
My Upcoming Book now has first edit completed. Selecting photos now.
Living With Limitations: Containers
Native Pachysandra with Maidenhair Fern
I am doing my best to contain myself over container gardening this spring (There. I actually said that). I made myself a promise last year to begin this season exploring container gardening for several reasons. One is my lack of energy and strength to continue gardening as usual. A lack of oxygen due to damaged lungs will not allow the physical activities I once took for granted. Or, certainly not to the extent of my past gardening activities. Another reason is container gardening has always fascinated me, but I have never been good at designing containers satisfying my eye.
Cinnamon Fern, Osmunda cinnamom
There are times when events come together in a flow, such as when I watched a talk by Deborah Trickett of The Captured Garden on container design. The concepts and execution flowed from her fingertips as each came into being as if by magic. Such knowledge and confidence could only come from experience and success. Simply put, she was good at what she did; she not only held my attention, but I actually I took notes.
Later I visited Anderson Japanese Gardens in Rockford, IL and Rotary Gardens Janesville, WI. Both were using containers in a way that held my attention, especially where ferns were used. Large ferns as single features in containers and artful arrangements of several containers. Then there were the multiple species of ferns used in and on driftwood and stone.
Ella Square Container
Campaign for Containers
I placed my notes and my photos in a folder and began my concepts for ferns in containers. The search was on for something different in affordable containers, plants I could divide and use from my garden, and a list of sure-would-like-to-haves. Again, things began to flow as I made a rare stop at Adamson We-Grow Nursery, a local garden center. There were my containers; Ella Square containers in the preferred color of teak; something besides the usual round shape. Ella containers were also were of heavy substance being constructed of stone and resin, and had a built in reservoir system to prevent overwatering. I purchased two 16 inch and place an order for a tall 19 inch. They also had large healthy ferns in 3 gallon size for reasonable prices so two of those came home with me as well. Some shopping remains, but enough is here to begin the project.
A container medium is not to be mistaken for a spiritualist in a bottle (from the Fozzie Bear School of Comedy. Waka, waka). Since I am concentrating on growing ferns as features in containers I want the container medium to be long lasting, so I will mixing my own. I will be using soil conditioner which consists of very small chips of wood, usually pine bark. I will then add about one-third by volume of vermiculite and a touch of coarse sand. While mixing I will toss in some slow release fertilizer. My measurements are by eye and what looks “just right”. This will make for a coarse mix that provides a loose root run with plenty of oxygen, and beneath every grain of sand, every piece of wood or vermiculite there will be a drop of moisture held, but remain free flowing. And all remains lightweight making the containers easier to move around as desired during the seasons.
Ghost Fern, European yellow Corydalis
I won’t go into the individual names of all the ferns both already on hand and on my list to purchase for I will be returning to this topic later on as the seasons progress. Some of my concepts for containers will be a pairing of fern and wild ginger (Asarum). Another concept is ferns and hosta, and/or fern with Lungwort (Pulmonaria), preferably with solid green leaves or solid silver. Nothing wrong with simply one fern in a container, or a fern(s) with stone or weathered stump and moss. As you can see I am going for green, centered on textures and outline, all of which will work together and not become too busy. If I were to place a label it all, I would use the single word Serenity.
Have You seen native Indiana yet? Lets go hiking together.